Strained NHS faces ‘winter of woe’, warn top doctors

A lack of hospital beds means the NHS is facing a “winter of woe”, senior doctors have warned, as new figures showed the health service is struggling with increasing demand.

The NHS is losing more than 180,000 days of available beds a month, where patients are fit to leave hospital but face delays in being transferred, according to data released by NHS Digital.

The warning that hospitals were poorly prepared for winter, from the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), came on the same day that it emerged NHS England received 571 written complaints every day last year – the highest number on record.

RCS president Professor Derek Alderson said: “Winter is creeping ever closer and today’s performance data worryingly suggests that the NHS is not ready for the pressures this will bring.

“Delayed transfers of care remain a major issue, creating logjams in hospitals, and preventing patients on waiting lists from being treated as quickly as they should be.

“Many of these patients will be very sick, in pain and possibly immobile. The high number of delayed days for transfers of care does not bode well.”

He added: “Unless patients are moved more quickly to community care and planned bed capacity is better protected, the NHS will face a winter of woe, with patients feeling the brunt of this.”

The NHS is embroiled in a dispute with local authorities over who is to blame for the lack of available beds.

The health service has set delayed transfer of care targets, yet many councils have argued they are undeliverable. Meanwhile, hospital bosses claimed that councils were not properly spending a £1bn fund earmarked to reduce “bed-blocking”.

Full story in The Independent, 14 September 2017